Conform

She had to do it. It’s part of her faith and belief. She would be remiss in her mission to love me if she did not step forward. And so we had ‘the talk’ last night.  The talk about accepting Christ. Oh my, that was such a sad moment for me, because what she was really saying was, I can’t accept you the way you are. There is something wrong with you. You need to be like me, think like me and believe as I believe. There is only one true God, who resides in the safe deposit box in the Baptist church. There is no other.

There is no acceptance here for diversity. The idea of there being many paths up the mountain is completely foreign.

I can move into my sisters world and enjoy the bonds of family we work so hard to maintain, but there is this slap that follows, full of self-righteous accusing. Even the “it doesn’t matter because I will always love you anyway,” part she puts at the end, feels condescending and full of attitude that makes me wrong.

As a child I learned to hide. I danced the dance and talked the talk to survive, but I have always been as different as a purple plum in an orange crate. It hurts my heart to have family I can not relate to, and to belong to a land I can not claim. I have moved often, searching for my place, but my place has always been my home place in upstate New York. I love the vineyards, finger lakes and untouched architecture; I love the look and feel of the land that held and embraced my growing up years. I love my family. But the love I have received here has been dark and laced with poison, of a sort that blinded my eyes and sent me into perpetual hiding.

The deeper truth is that I am working to accept myself. I am a gifted woman who lives in the shadows of her own life, because I fear the abuse that comes from revealing.

There is a lot I like about my sister’s faith. She is sincerely striving toward kindness, service, gentle speaking and love. What could be wrong with that? The downside is that you are either on the boat or you are off the boat, and if you are off the boat, I guess it’s God’s will that you drown. The demand to conform pushes me farther and farther away. My older sister has no religion at all, but is worse. This family wants to make people small. They want to put them under their shoe, to keep them down and compliant. They want to eat my individuality, chewing it until it becomes bland and unrecognizable.

 I don’t return often, but each time I do, it is with the hope of real connection and deliverance from exile. What I receive instead is a new clarity about my own path and the need to accept people as they are without expectation.

written September 25, 2008